Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Principles of Citizen Journalism

The good folks over at the Citizen News Network have just launched a very timely project that outlines five essential principles of citizen journalism to “help citizen reporters master the fundamentals of the craft in a networked age”. By focusing on concepts that address “the core values and tenets of quality journalism at the grassroots level”, the group has identified its key principles as follows:

The KCNN site provides an excellent and comprehensive list of web resources for established and aspiring citizen journalists that includes text-based summaries of key issues, as well as screencasts, podcasts, and video and audio interviews with notable social media/web 2.0 heavyweights including: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, fêted blogger Jason Calcanis, and NYU professor Jay Rosen, among many others.

I’m pleased to see that efforts such as these are being undertaken to initiate an important discussion regarding the emergent roles and reponsibilities of citizen journalists in the evolving worlds of newsgathering, reporting, and news media. Thankfully, the aim of this project is not to regulate the practice(s) of citizen journalists but rather to begin an “ongoing conversation” that portends toward a set of shared principles that can be actualized through journalistic practice.

As I’ve discussed previously, opportunities to put such ideas into practice have been multiplying at a dizzying pace.

Back in May 2005, compiled a list of 81 prominent citizen journalism sites and noted, even then, that “so many citizen journalism initiatives are cropping up…it’s hard to keep track”. Since then, two years have elapsed and we have uploaded our way into an era dominated by the multiplicity of You and the singularity of Me.

A billion people are now online. You are now the tube, the space, and the creator. Content is now user-generated and crowdsourced. Journalism is now participatory and civic. And journalists are now citizens, as never before.

We are in the process of effecting an important shift in the way individuality is created and disseminated by digital means; and it is imperative that some shared ethics and standards of practice be developed (and ideally agreed upon) by the practitioners of these new forms of journalism to reflect this shift. But will citizen journalists heed these principles on ethical grounds, as they have been proposed, or discard them in favour of ‘individualized’ standards of practice, perhaps even contingent on compensatory revenue models?

As “content creators” have come to be valued as much for the content they have already created as for their creative potential, the nature of content has been changed. Our words, images, ideas, and selves now constitute a new currency of exchange; one whose value depends on both a shared system of valuation and a common set of practiced principles. But will the principles of accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, transparency and independence help to standardize and embolden responsible journalistic practices or will market forces crack the very “bedrock foundations of journalism”?

What will this new currency be worth?

nialler9: Your Ears Will Thank You For It

I’ve just discovered the truly excellent music blog (and wonderful podcast) of nialler9 – which hails from Dublin, Ireland. If you have yet to discover it, I urge you to check it out.

I know there are millions of mp3 blogs out there, but few offer such good music selections paired with concise, clever writing, and such a pleasing aesthetic.

Right now I’m listening to the inaugural episode of their recently launched podcast – which is hosted by Aoife Mc, a radio DJ from The Indie Hour on 103.2fm Dublin City Anna Livia FM. It is a decidedly fresh mix of amazing tunes: some electro, dubstep, hip-hop, pop, & rock stylings…just the sounds I needed to officially believe that Spring has arrived.


They recently served up a dose of Nosaj Thing – an LA electronic/glitch.hop producer who has been one my absolute favourite recent music discoveries. This guy’s only put out an EP so far, but it is very well produced, sequenced, and all of the tracks I’ve heard are hot hot hot. I’m really looking forward to his full-length due out later in ’07. For some mp3s, including a hard to find download of his dopest track – the mind-blowingly killer tune “Heart Entire” – head over to nialler9’s post: here.

Oh yeah, and how’s this for an artist list of their recent posts: Aesop Rock, El-P, Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid, Mr. T, and Mr. Vegas…have I hooked you yet? That’s what I thought.

The site is run by Irish web-designer Niall Byrne and, I have to say, I’m so pleased to find a music blog that’s actually worth coming back to.

Much respect & thanks for the music!

And You May Ask Yourself…Well, How Did I Get Here?

This is an excerpt taken from the anonymously-created “We” documentary, a feature length film produced and distributed for free through The film explores the growing disparity between the world’s richest and poorest peoples, by “visualizing” the words of Booker prize-winning author and Indian activist, Arundhati Roy, “specifically her famous Come September speech, where she spoke on such things as the war on terror, corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest”. I have yet to download the film in its entirety, but I enjoyed this clip and I’m pleased with the way in which I came upon it.

In the non-linear manner by which I discover most of my news, media, and stories these days, I came across this video through several linked, virtual steps. Let me re-trace them.

I found the “We” video by way of the site, which is home to “Organized C.O.U.P. (Organized Community of United People): “a group of Washington DC based activists working to effect positive change in communities of color through media and education”.

One of the main contributors to this group is the academic and writer Dr. Jared A. Ball, who is an assistant professor of communication studies at Morgan State University. He recently published an excellent essay on “Hip-Hop, Mass Media and 21st Century Colonization” which I found on the myspace blog (of all things) of acclaimed hip-hop writer and journalist Davey D.

Davey D gets much love from other hip-hop writers and bloggers, not the least of whom is author Jeff Chang – one of my favourites. Jeff posted up a link to an article Davey D had written called “Confessions of a BET Producer”, which piqued my interest, but I never ended up finding it.

Instead, I stumbled upon (no pun intended) something far more fascinating and entirely new to me. It’s at times like these that I’m thankful for the intertextuality of the web and pleased to discover new ways of navigating this shared labyrinth of ideas and information.


Some days I find myself stuck at dead-ends and run-arounds but, in others (like today), paths open up, they make sense, and they remain coherent. I even find myself in a state of eager anticipation as to where they might lead. It is as if, as Borges suggested, “This web of time — the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore eachother through the centuries — embrace every possibility.”

Or maybe it’s just that I’m well-rested and feeling optimistic.


All the World’s a Story: Wired ‘Borrows’ a Few Ideas from

The New York Times is reporting today on a recently announced partnership between Wired Magazine and to create the citizen-driven, or ‘pro-am’, journalism news site AssignmentZero.

Journalism has always been a product of networks. A reporter receives an assignment, begins calling “sources” — people he or she knows or can find. More calls follow and, with luck and a deadline looming, the reporter will gain enough mastery of the topic to sit down at a keyboard and tell the world a story.

A new experiment wants to broaden the network to include readers and their sources. Assignment Zero (, a collaboration between Wired magazine and NewAssignment.Net, the experimental journalism site established by Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, intends to use not only the wisdom of the crowd, but their combined reporting efforts — an approach that has come to be called “crowdsourcing.”

The idea is to apply to journalism the same open-source model of Web-enabled collaboration that produced the operating system Linux, the Web browser Mozilla and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

“Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?” Professor Rosen asked last week on

Source: The New York Times

Well, my first question is: hasn’t anyone at the New York Times, Wired or heard about

NowPublic has already created a global network of contributors committed to “high standards in truth, accuracy, and free expression” — and its members are actively shaping the site’s development.

One of the most compelling aspects of participatory media is that individual contributors are now invested in the dual processes of creating content and helping to establish shared editorial visions. In the case of NowPublic, this work has even extended into defining what constitutes ‘news’ for the NP site. Members of ‘crowd powered’ communities not only engage in discussions about their work and the work of others, they also participate in a larger dialogue about what kind of stories they want to share and what kind of a community they want to create.

As buzzwords like “social media” and “citizen journalism” have become further embedded in the new media lexicon and thinking of major broadcasters and mainstream media — many of whom are planning to, or have already launched, their own 2.0 initiatives — it has become evident that there will be many more collaborative social media/news projects like AssignmentZero competing for (y)our attention and soliciting (y)our involvement in the future.

But community-based knowledge is only as good as the community that creates it.

Who, then, will participate in these emergent “crowdsourcing” projects? What kind of unique editorial perspectives will they offer and what kind of stories will they share?

And if all the world’s a story, then perhaps the most important question becomes — where will you tell yours?

The Indie Rock Cult of Bruce Springsteen


When I first heard The Killers‘ irrepressibly catchy and bombastic tune “When You Were Young” the first thing that came to mind was The Boss. Then I read a million Pitchforkaping mp3 blogs who chimed in with a blasting chorus of Springsteen-fuelled adoration for The Hold Steady. And, recently, our dear old Mile-End orchestra The Arcade Fire have reappeared, this time sans Davids (ie. Bowie and Byrne), but clearly pushing their booming brand of indie rock south of the 49th parallel and deep into classic Springsteen territory – into the deep, rumbling heart of American rock.

Well, it seems I’m not the only kid on the music block who has noticed this surge in “Springsteenism”. Although I have my reservations about offering up the World’s Greatest Band crown (whatever that means) to the Arcade crew, they’ve definitely amped up the heart-on-their-sleeves, ‘Born in the USA’-earnestness of their delivery this time round and they are, I’m sure, making many a flag-waving convert along the way.

Now it’s only a matter of time until we’ll see our Montreal wunderkinds rocking out a live version of ‘No Cars Go’ with red ballcaps stuffed into the back pockets of their jeans, and The Boss himself on backing vocal duty, helping to fill out that big chorus: “Let’s go!”

“Springsteen was once an indie bête noire, but today everyone from the Killers to the great beer-soaked poets the Hold Steady are aping Springsteen’s musical cadences and open-road romanticism. (Even Joanna Newsom is getting into the act: Her forthcoming EP is called Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band.) Of course, the most flaming practitioner of Springsteenism—and U2ism, for that matter—is Arcade Fire. No one can fail to hear the Boss’s hemi-powered drones in the rumble of songs like “Keep the Car Running.” And Arcade Fire cribs not just the big sound but the big heart and big ego—Springsteen- and U2-style uplift, complete with messianic overtones and nary a hint of the distancing irony found in the Hold Steady or the Killers. Neon Bible’s stirring centerpiece, “No Cars Go,” is a cosmic-utopian vision of a realm where, as someone once sang, the streets have no name: “We know a place where no planes go/ We know a place where no ships go…/ Women and children!/ Let’s go!/ Old folks!/ Let’s go!”

There is a strategic logic behind the new rock bombast. Rock long ago ceded the zeitgeist to hip-hop and R & B and pop, which command the radio airwaves, the record sales, and, in the case of rap, the outlaw glamour that once belonged to rock. One of the last things a rocker can do that a rapper or pop diva can’t is make an almighty racket. Hip-hop producers have lately fashioned their own kind of symphonic grandeur, but their brittle digital edifices are no match for the walls of sound a rock band can erect. Even a human storm system like Beyoncé, harnessing the power of a sampled drum army, simply can’t roar like a bunch of weedy white kids armed with distortion pedals and a Marshall stack. In the hip-hop era, a humongous sound may be the best way left for a rock band to get the world to sit up and take notice.”

Starbucks: the McDonalds of coffee, music, books, and movies

starbucks sign

Not only has Starbucks – the once tiny Pike Place Market-based, coffee-loving first mate of Moby Dick-inspired coffee roaster – grown into a vertically-integrated retail behemoth unaffectionately referred to as the McDonalds of coffee, so too have its aims of total market domination been extended into the spheres of music, movies, and books.

Starbucks is solidifying its expansion into the entertainment business with the launch of a record label, the global specialty coffee retailer announced Monday.

Starbucks said it will partner with Concord Music Group, which helped the coffee giant successfully sell the posthumous Ray Charles release Genius Loves Company, for its new Hear Music label, which will be based in Los Angeles.

The coffee chain’s new Hear Music label will sign both emerging and established artists. Already, there are rumours that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney will be among the first.The coffee chain’s new Hear Music
label will sign both emerging and established artists. Already, there are rumours that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney will be among the first.

The new label will sign emerging and established artists and musicians and sell records both in Starbucks and other retail stores.


While big box music retailers like HMV and Virgin megastores have suffered through a massive declines in CD sales in recent years, Starbucks has capitalized on its captive, caffeine-craving weekly audience of 44 million customers and successfully positioned itself as a purveyor of both frappuccinos and rare Rolling Stones releases.

Early on, the coffee chain made astute the move to connect its brand with the inoffensive, if almost banal, sounds of ‘smooth jazz’ and blues music. Starbucks forged a smart partnership with the legendary Blue Note Jazz label, concocted a ‘Blue Note Blend’ of its coffees, and released various jazz compilations and works by acclaimed jazz artists like Herbie Hancock. Since then, they’ve gone on to sell music by everyone from Ray Charles and Alanis Morrissette to the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

As reports, last year Starbucks also got involved in selling movies and books, “signing a deal to jointly market and distribute the family-friendly spelling bee drama Akeelah and the Bee and offering bestselling author Mitch Albom’s novel One More Day at its counters.

The ‘McDonalds of coffee’ tag may fast becoming true. In many North American cities, Starbucks stores are as pervasive and ubiquitous as the ‘golden arches’ and, with its saccharine stranglehold on its customers well established, the company can now begin its fast encroachment into the remaining areas of its customers’ passing fancies and ‘entertainment’ passions.

And if tabloid music heavyweights like Paul McCartney decide to lend their considerable revenue-earning potential to the chain’s fledgling Hear Music label, Starbucks will be in an excellent position to sing the sweet sounds of profit, while other major music retailers and labels continue their struggle to survive. Major label dinosaurs take note – it might be time to get into the coffee business.

Tags: stores | specialty | rumours | retail | record label | ray charles | musicians | music | McDonalds | Los Angeles | launch | label | herbie hacock | hear music | global | ex-Beatle | established | entertainment | emerging | coffee | CHAIN | business | Bob Dylan | artists | Starbucks | Paul McCartney | culturite | Culture | Akeelah

Hip-Hop Scholarship

birth of hip-hop

Last year, my good friend Matt and I submitted a pitch to CBC’s long-running radio program Ideas, entitled “The Next Movement: Stories of a Hip-Hop Generation”. We proposed to do a radio documentary that would “explore the significance of the hip-hop generation to contemporary culture”. Citing a general lack of knowledge (or perhaps a more specific disinterest) in hip-hop amongst members of the selection committee, we were turned down. But that wasn’t too surprising. The proposal we ended up submitting had taken on a far more generic and generalized ‘focus’ than we had first intended.

After a brief discussion with one of the show’s producers prior to submitting our pitch, we were informed that Ideas had never addressed a cultural movement like hip-hop before and would likely be reluctant to do so. We were also advised to propose something “as broad as possible” so as not to alienate anyone who might not be (ie. would not be) familiar with elements of hip-hop music and culture. With that in mind, we opted for a title that borrowed nicely from an excellent track on The Roots‘ Achebe-inspired album Things Fall Apart, but didn’t accurately reflect our real interest.

Instead of trudging our way through a generalized overview of hip-hop’s significance to contemporary culture, we wanted to look at the something dynamic, specific, and new: the burgeoning field of hip-hop scholarship. We wanted to explore hip-hop’s “intellectual currency” and examine the critical intersections between the academic study of hip-hop and the artistic production of hip-hop music and culture.

Hip-hop is not dead – it is one of the largest and most influential cultural movements on the planet. It is no surprise, then, that both its founding artists and its newly-minted millions of myspace rappers are being put, increasingly, under the critical lens of hip-hop scholars. In a recent article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Reyhan Harmanci offers an excellent look at the “literary flood” of hip-hop scholarship that’s occurring in the United States, and notes that, “according to a 2005 survey by Stanford’s Hiphop Archive, more than 300 courses on [hip-hop] are now offered at colleges and universities across the country.”

Many of the hip-hop academy‘s rising stars seem to be emerging from the west coast, particularly centred around the San Francisco/Bay Area. One of the brightest and most widely-read is the writer, hip-hop activist, and Solesides label co-founder Jeff Chang, whose book “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation” is a seminal work on hip-hop’s history and, as Harmanci observes, “one of the primary texts in many [hip-hop] classes”. Chang is a fantastic writer who has emerged as a central voice of the ‘hip-hop generation’ perhaps, in part, because he is one of the few hip-hop writers who can legitimately claim both academic and street credibility.

Part of Chang’s appeal is his active involvement in community-building efforts. It is important work for him because, as he notes, “hip-hop is meant to be about that, bringing people together and raising the roof.” As such, he is constantly on the road to attend speaking engagements at universities, conferences, hip-hop events and workshops. Chang’s interest in promoting collaboration, dialogue, and discourse on the study of hip-hop has produced a fascinating follow-up to his future-classic first book.

Chang’s latest – “Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop” – is a collection of essays, interviews, and roundtable discussions from heavy-hitting artists and academics like: Harry Allen, B+, Kamilah Forbes, Sacha Jenkins, Paul D. Miller, Mark Anthony Neal, Rha Goddess and many more. I haven’t yet had the chance to delve into this anthology (although I eagerly anticipate reading it), but WireTap Magazine has a great interview with Chang in which he discusses many of the book’s key questions and considerations and Jeff also regularly writes on similar subjects at his Zentronix blog.

Total Chaos, like Can’t Stop Won’t Stop before it, offers a good vector for considering the direction that hip-hop discourse is taking: it is a book intended for both hip-hop fans and academics alike and it is one that will likely be read and appreciated equally by both. Increasingly, however, it seems more appropriate to consider hip-hop fans and academics not as separate groups but as inter-connected points within the spectrum of hip-hop’s critical audience. For as much as hip-hop is now being interrogated by academics, so too is the academy being infiltrated by hip-hop artists, poets, writers, and producers.

Critic Hua Hsu has suggested that “any hip-hop academic shoulders a unique double burden—not only is there the expectation of serious scholarship, there is also a mandate to legitimize an entire field of study in a world built on canons and orthodoxy” – but this no longer seems to be the case. The study of hip-hop, although not without its critics, has been legitimized by the hundreds of university courses being offered and books being published on its innumerable permutations. They provide irrefutable evidence that hip-hop scholarship is here to stay.

Bolstered by the enthusiastic support of its most dynamic and critical voices – such as those of Jeff Chang, Davey D, Shawn Ginright and others – “the hip-hop generation” is rapidly producing its own richly-textured and global discourse. And if “hip-hop is the language of this generation”, as Rickey Vincent suggests, then hip-hop scholarship offers a self-reflexive mode of articulation that is both deeply embedded in hip-hop’s modes of artistic creation and cultural production and, simultaneously, able to examine, critically, its own intellectual currency.

It’s unfortunate that Matt and I didn’t have the chance to produce our little radio doc for the CBC, as the question of hip-hop scholarship is not only a timely, relevant, and an important cultural question to consider, but also a vast and growing subject with many voices contributing to its development.

For additional links and further reading recommendations, please continue after the break.

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